Greetings disgruntled receivers of misfit toys, the Nickel Rover labs have been running at full steam to understand how things have gone so poorly. Early results have been unsurprising and we'll get into the debacles of the past 2 weeks soon but in this post let's just examine the remainder of the season under the following premises I hope you'll grant;
1). None of the goals worth having at Texas are attainable this season.
6-6 is not a given. Other than Florida Atlantic, and I'm afraid to even pencil in a win there (although we haven't really slipped nearly far enough to blow that one), every team on the schedule has better than a puncher's chance against this squad.
2). This team desperately needs a bowl practice.
There is no guarantee that things will improve next season. Believe it or not, Texas has enjoyed Offensive Line play as solid as anything we've seen since Blalock and co. left. Next year Texas will be breaking in two new starting tackles and trying to find/develop a playmaker on offense to keep Gilbert from repeating the Chris Simms experience.
3). For everyone who argued with me that Gilbert didn't have McCoy-level running skills you can suck it.
This isn't really relevant but I'm hoping the common criticism that Gilbert doesn't have McCoy's footwork dies soon. If Davis had attempted earlier this season to integrate the QB as a runner in the offense Garret would be the leading rusher. He doesn't look as fast as McCoy because of his long strides but his moves and speed are very comparable.
Local personality Erin Hogan suggested on air that most of the team should be replaceable by the young talent after the seniors got their chance and couldn't produce a victory against Baylor.
For one side of the team I think that's fair, but here I offer my own assessment of which players and staff fall into what categories.
I appreciate your effort, wait outside while I berate the others:
Will Muschamp and his staff: The tremendous disadvantages this defense has continually faced along with the tremendous weight of expectation from last year's success and Mack's lunacy has put every flaw of this group and the coaching under a microscope. Let me assure you that no Mack Brown defense would be doing a better job under this scrutiny and pressure save maybe for last year's group.
Meanwhile Texas' two victories have come on the backs of legendary defensive performances in Lincoln and Lubbock. Most importantly, Muschamp has a plan and assets that will ensure continued excellence.
Sam Acho: Ocho Uno is going to destroy in the NFL should he find a place on a team like the Patriots or Steelers and he can play Cover-2 or any other 4-3 defensive end position or Outside linebacker in a 3-4. His numbers this season are going to be incredible.
Kheeston Randall: He's had a good year but no one else can do what he does so it's really a moot point.
Garret Gilbert: I'm not sure what else he could be doing, he has plenty of room for growth but we can't call him a bust working with this personnel. He wasn't ready to be the best offensive player on this team but that's not too hard of a knock. I won't concede his failure as quickly as I will my own to ignore NateHeupel's assessment of his surrounding talent. That they are awful.
David Snow: Our most consistent lineman who should be an integral part of our offensive plan this year and next.
Mason Walters: Because he's been solid and absolutely has to be developed for the future.
Robinson/Acho: The Finley touchdown run was an illuminating example of how important it is for them to be in the right spot because Scott and Gideon were either out of position or far too slow to cover for them. This is why the zone is popular in football these days, it can exploit gaps wherever they occur. If these two guys make mistakes it can be all over without Vaccaro on the field to erase them.
Their play this season has been stellar though and opportunities for younger guys can only come from injury or a 3-LB front.
Aaron Williams/Curtis Brown: Still the best corner tandem around. In a non-spread era where teams would field only 1 or 2 real receiving threats at a time Aaron Williams would totally dominate. Instead teams just don't throw at him.
Their punt returns are totally up for grabs though, of course. In light of Mack's story about Curtis' struggles these last few weeks I feel all the more inclined to blame the staff for continuing to put him in positions to fail.
Eddie Jones/Alex Okafor/Jeffcoat: Eddie Jones is having a phenomenal season and he's earned the right to play it out. Okafor will be a star tackle/3-4 end by next season if he maintains his current rate of development. Jeffcoat needs at least as many snaps as he's getting.
Kenny Vaccaro: He'll effectively be a starter next season, probably doing many of the things Earl did here.
Cody Johnson/Fozzy Whittaker: Everything Texas needs from it's back exists with greatest potential in these two.
Good work, uh how about taking a few snaps off?
Kyle Hix: If not for his persistent attempt to emulate Flozelle Adams before the snap he would be having a very solid season. Granted that he's avoided elite rushers save for a few snaps against UCLA's dude and Beal and been offered Tight End chip protection but his play this year has not really been the problem.
Who is playing Left Tackle next year though? Any guesses? Trey Hopkins who couldn't hold up as Mitchell's replacement against ISU? Kelly who has barely played? Walters who looks weakest at guard while in pass protection? One of the freshman? 270 pound Poehlmann? Porter who is playing back-up Center? Let's start rotating some guys in now...
Britt Mitchell: Same story with the added consideration that Mitchell hasn't been great anyways.
Michael Huey: He's hurt right now anyways, there hasn't been anything terribly wrong with his play but someone's gotta replace him and the future is most important now. I want to see more rotation at each of the Senior OL's spots.
Every Wide Receiver: John Chiles has played hard and made some plays of late, he's earned some chances. Malcolm Williams blocks hard, plays special teams and has unlimited potential, Kirkendoll almost escapes my ire from time to time, it doesn't really matter though because;
This is going to be the first season under Mack Brown in which Texas has had neither a 1,000 yard receiver OR running back. If that is somehow surprising to you I encourage you to look it up.
For that reason not even the upperclassmen like Chiles who have paid their dues should be safe because none of them have produced anything that would make them untouchable. Texas desperately needs a playmaker and if Davis, White or Hales can offer that let's find out now before we go back to the drawing board this offseason. In general Texas needs to figure out how to turn the speed in this group into opportunities. Rather than figuring how who can play the normal roles in the Davis offense figure out what roles can be made from the talent on hand.
Christian Scott/Blake Gideon: Having one of those guys out there at a time is fine, they each offer some decent support skills, but together they present the middle of the field as a target that Muschamp can't seem to totally conceal, although I'm not sure why he allowed Kendall Wright to be isolated on them and pray he won't do the same with Blackmon and Fuller.
Neither safety has the coverage skills to play isolated against good players, which is fairly important in our scheme in this conference.
Who is mysterion?
DJ Monroe: When DJ ran a counter to the weakside and ignored the entire design of the play in chasing a non-existent hole that turned into a loss I thought I caught a glimpse of what has caused hesitation in the staff in using him. Obviously his potential for big plays outweighs some negative runs here and there but someone who can be counted on to make crippling errors can't start on this team. This offense just can't recover from that.
Obviously they need to work much harder on incorporating his explosiveness into the gameplan because he doesn't fit into any of the roles that normally exist in the Davis offense. Muschamp would create a new role for him that could be milked into key contributions from week to week but it's whatever.
No part in our future:
Greg Smith/most of our TE/HB crew: Smith is graduating so it doesn't really matter. I hate to pile on here, his blocking has improved, but a guy like this should never have had to play so big a role here. Texas has utterly failed to develop players here and has recently started motioning Kirkendoll into the backfield as a blocker. Kirkendoll.
Greg Davis: He had the tools here to win ten regular season games and seems at times to have no idea how to assemble the pieces, a truth which manifests itself in the red zone.
Bobby Kennedy: Apart from a 6th year senior and 26 year old natural leader/worker he's produced no elite wide receiver since...Limas Sweed. I don't trust him with the development of White or Davis, nor to replace them.
Priority one has to be keeping Muschamp and priority two has to be overhauling our offensive staff, otherwise we are facing a season in which Davis still fails to emphasize a real running game, the receivers don't grow enough, the tackles suck and we flounder to maybe a holiday bowl.
Mack could be an obstacle to both of those priorities and his main attributed strength, CEO management, is hard to find in the lack of accountability on offense and the week to week performances of the team as well as his failure to see this coming down the road in the last few years.
I've already said this in a thread comment but Texas has not lost home games in consecutive weeks since 1938. Let's get out ahead and save what works in this program with Mack or without him.